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Virtual room-based light fixture and device control

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20120284672 patent thumbnailZoom

Virtual room-based light fixture and device control


In one embodiment, a virtual room-based user interface includes one or more virtual rooms. Each virtual room is rendered from one or more images captured of a corresponding physical room of a structure, and includes depictions of one or more light fixtures within the physical room, one or more furnishings within the physical room and one or more boundaries of the physical room. A user selects a particular depiction of a particular light fixture within a particular virtual room. In response, a state of the particular light fixture within the corresponding physical room is changed. Also, appearance of the particular virtual room is updated such that the depiction of the particular light fixture shows the particular light fixture with the changed state and the depictions of the one or more boundaries or the one or more furnishings show lighting effects resulting from the changed state.

Browse recent Savant Systems, LLC patents - Hyannis, MA, US
Inventors: Robert P. Madonna, Nicholas J. Cipollo
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120284672 - Class: 715850 (USPTO) - 11/08/12 - Class 715 
Data Processing: Presentation Processing Of Document, Operator Interface Processing, And Screen Saver Display Processing > Operator Interface (e.g., Graphical User Interface) >On-screen Workspace Or Object >Interface Represented By 3d Space >Navigation Within 3d Space

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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120284672, Virtual room-based light fixture and device control.

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RELATED APPLICATIONS

This Application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/792,236, filed on Jun. 2, 2010 by Robert P. Madonna et al., and entitled “Virtual Room-Based Light Fixture and Device Control”, which is incorporated by reference herein in its entirety. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/792,236 claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/183,825, filed on Jun. 3, 2009 by Robert P. Madonna, and entitled “Virtual Room-Based Light Fixture and Device Control”, which is also incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

1. Technical Field

The present disclosure relates generally to light fixture and device control and more specifically to virtual room-based light fixture and device control techniques.

2. Background Information

As homes and other structures become larger, and filled with more electrical and electronic devices, the burden of controlling these electrical and electronic devices has also increased. One particular area in which this issue has manifest is in the area of lighting control.

Traditionally light fixtures in a home or other structure have been largely controlled by wall mounted mechanical light switches, including mechanical toggle switches, rocker switches, push button switches, and the like. Such mechanical switches have taken the form of 2-way switches, where a light fixture is controlled from a single switch location, 3-way switches, where a light fixture is controlled from two switch locations, 4-way switches where a light fixture is controlled from three switch locations, etc. In some cases, mechanical switches have been augmented by mechanical dimmers, which allow a light fixture to be dimmed or brightened, for example, by turning a knob that adjusts a variable resister in series with the light fixture.

While mechanical switches and dimmers have proved reliable and cost-effective, they have increasingly shown their limitations in large homes and other structures. A single room in a large home or other structure may include a large number of individual light fixtures. For example, a large room may include several free-standing light fixtures, such as lamps, that provide task lighting; several fixed light fixtures, such as recessed cans and/or wall sconces, that provide general lighting; as well as several special-purpose light fixtures, such as accent spots, that provide illumination on artwork, architectural features or other elements of the room. To control all the light fixtures in a large room using traditional mechanical light switches and dimmers, a variety of “ganged” switch panels have traditionally been employed. FIG. 1 is a depiction of a conventional 6-gang mechanical switch panel 100, housing six individual mechanical switches 110, 120, 130, 140, 150, 160, each of which may control one or more light fixtures. A large room with many light fixtures may require several of these panels, located at several locations in the room, for example, near different entrances, to provide adequate means for control of all the light fixtures in the room.

As should be apparent, while this type of control scheme is functional in a large room, it is typically not user friendly. A user must memorize which of the many mechanical switches controls which individual light fixture or fixtures. A new guest in the room, who has not memorize this relationship, typically must attempt by trial and error to determine which mechanical switch controls which fixture or fixtures, flipping each switch until they happen upon the result they desire. This may quickly lead to frustration.

More recently, a variety of types of electronic lighting control systems have been developed which attempt to improved upon the traditional lighting control experience. Such electronic lighting control systems typically include one or more programmable electronic lighting controllers, which are interconnected via control wiring to relays and/or dimmer units wired inline with each individual light fixture. The electronic lighting controllers may also be connected to a number of wall mounted, table-top, or portable control panels, either by wired, or wireless, links. Some electronic lighting control systems support a variety of lighting “scenes”, such that a number of lights may be activated, deactivated, and/or dimmed together, in response to a single control section, for example, a single button press. For instance, a particular lighting scene in a room may activate certain task lighting and fixed lighting at high-brightness, appropriate for reading, while another lighting scene in the room may activate only certain accent lighting, at a very low level, creating a setting suitable for movie viewing.

However, many conventional electronic lighting control systems still employ button-centric user interfaces reminiscent of the mechanical switches and dimmers they replace. FIG. 2 depicts a conventional wall-mounted control panel 200 for a conventional electronic lighting control system. The panel 200 includes a plurality of physical push buttons labeled with text labels. Lighting scene selection buttons 205, 210, 215, 220 enable selection of various lighting scenes, while dimmer controls 230 are provided to adjust brightness. Further, the control panel 200 includes buttons 240 for selecting light fixtures in other rooms of the home or structure, as well as “All On” and “All Off” buttons 250, 255 for global control.

While conventional electronic lighting control systems that employ conventional button-centric control panels 200 may offer some improvement over traditional ganged mechanical switches and dimmers, the lighting control experience may still be quite user-unfriendly. While the overall number of controls may be reduced, one still must determine which push-button operates which light fixture, or group of light fixtures, in a large room. Typically, only a short cryptic name is provided on the face of each push-button as a guide. Further, should a user desire to deviate from the provided scenes, and activate, deactivate and/or dim particular light fixtures, the user may have to navigate a confusing array of override and manual controls. Thus, the overall user experience can still be rather frustrating.

In addition to conventional button-centric control panels that employ physical push-buttons, some conventional electronic lighting control systems work in conjunction with touch-screen control units that display menu-based user interfaces. Rather than manipulate physical push-buttons, a user may select, via touch, representations of buttons on a touch screen. FIG. 3 depicts a conventional touch-based user interface 310 for a conventional electronic lighting control system on touch-screen control unit 300. Similar to the button-centric control panel 200 discussed above, the user interface 310 displays a plurality of buttons 320, 330, 340, 350 for selecting various lighting scenes. Further, the user interface 310 includes dimmer controls 360 for adjusting brightness, as well as menuing controls 370 for accessing interfaces for other rooms in the home or structure. As is apparent, while the user is no longer actuating physical push-buttons, the overall user experience provided by a conventional touch-screen control unit 300 is often little change from that provided by a conventional button-centric control panel 200. Rather utilizing physical buttons, the user is simply utilizing digital buttons. The user still must memorize which buttons operate which light fixtures, or groups of light fixtures, and may still have to resort to trial and error to determine exactly what each button does. Thus, the overall user experience may be just as frustrating as with a conventional button-centric control panel 200.

Further, the above-discussed limitations of conventional control systems are not limited to the field of lighting control. A variety of other types of electrical and electronic devices are typically present in homes and other structures, and typically suffer from similar control shortcomings. For example, a large room in a home or other structure may include a number of motor operated devices, such as automatic window shades or ceiling fans, which a user may desire to operate and adjust selectively. Similarly, a large room in a home or other structure may include a number of audio/video (A/V) components that a user may desire to select and control, as well as other devices that a user may desire to operate in a controlled manner. Further, a room of a home or other structure may include various heating, ventilating, and air conditioning and/or energy management devices user may desire to manage. As with light fixtures, a user may be forced to memorize which mechanical switch, physical push-button, or digital button is associated with each device and/or each function of a device, and may become frustrated when simply turning on or off a device, or otherwise changing the state of a device, becomes a complicated endeavor.

Accordingly, there is a need for improved techniques for controlling light fixtures and other devices in a home or other structure.

SUMMARY

The shortcomings of the prior art are addressed in part by a programmable multimedia controller that supports a novel virtual room-based user interface. In one embodiment, the virtual room-based user interface includes a plurality of virtual room interface environments (hereinafter “virtual rooms”). Each virtual room corresponds to a different physical room (or portion of a physical room) in a home or other structure. In some cases, several virtual rooms may correspond to different portions of one physical room, e.g., to cover the entire physical room. Each virtual room may include a substantially photo-realistic depiction of the boundaries of the physical room (or portion of the physics cal room), for example, of the walls, ceiling, floor, etc. that define the room; may show at least a portion of furnishings present in the physical room (or portion of the physical room), for example, sofas, chairs, beds, wall-hangings, etc. that are present in the physical room; and may show devices, for example, light fixtures, under control (either directly or indirectly) of the programmable multimedia controller that are present within the physical room (or portion of the physical room).

Substantially photo-realistic depictions of devices under control are preferably shown at locations within the virtual room corresponding to the device\'s actual locations within the physical room. In the preferred embodiment, the substantially photo-realistic depictions of the room and the devices are derived from a limited number of prerecorded images, for example, a limited number of still digital photographs of the physical room, captured from a predetermined location and showing the room in differing states. However, a variety of other techniques for creation of the substantially photo-realistic depictions of the room and the devices are expressly contemplated and described below.

Using the virtual room-based user interface, a user may select, control, and otherwise interact with the devices, for example, the light fixtures, in the physical room by manipulating the substantially photo-realistic visual depictions of the devices within the virtual room, for example, by selecting the visual depictions of the devices within the virtual room on a touch-screen display. The appearance of the virtual room may be dynamically updated in response to the user\'s manipulations in the virtual room. Further, the appearance of the virtual room may be dynamically updated in response to data received from devices within the physical room and/or in response to environmental changes. In such manner, a virtual room may be continuously updated to show a substantially photo-realistic depiction of at least a portion of the corresponding physical room, such that what a user views within the virtual room will minor, or at least resemble, their experience within the corresponding physical room at a given time.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The description below refers to the accompanying drawings of example embodiments, of which:

FIG. 1 is a depiction of a conventional 6-gang mechanical switch panel, housing six individual mechanical switches;

FIG. 2 is a depiction of a conventional wall-mounted control panel for a conventional electronic lighting control system;

FIG. 3 is a depiction of a conventional touch user interface for a conventional electronic lighting control system;

FIG. 4 is a block diagram of an example programmable multimedia controller interconnected to a number of devices;

FIG. 5 is a block diagram of an example hardware architecture of the example programmable multimedia controller of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a diagram of an example virtual room-based user interface;

FIG. 7 is a diagram of an example virtual room-based user interface in which the virtual room has been updated to show particular light fixtures activated;

FIG. 8A is a diagram of an example virtual room-based user interface in which portions of two virtual rooms are shown in mid-advance, for example, in response to a user\'s swipe;

FIG. 8B is a diagram of an alternative example virtual room-based user interface in which portions of two virtual rooms corresponding to the same physical room are shown in mid-advance, for example, in response to a user\'s swipe;

FIG. 8C is a diagram of an alternative example virtual room-based user interface showing a virtual room corresponding to a lower level of a tree structure of virtual rooms;

FIG. 8D is a diagram of an alternative example virtual room-based user interface showing a virtual room corresponding to a lower level of a tree structure of virtual rooms that illustrates additional usage of gestures;

FIG. 8E is a diagram of an alternative example virtual room-based user interface showing a plurality of virtual rooms, arranged into groups within a tree structure of virtual rooms.

FIG. 9 is a diagram of an example virtual room-based user interface in which a Lighting Tab is selected;

FIG. 10 is a diagram of an example virtual room-based user interface in which an A/V Tab is displayed;

FIG. 11 is a flow diagram of an example sequence of steps for controlling devices within a physical room using a virtual room-based user interface; and

FIG. 12 is a functional block diagram depicting an example technique for rendering a virtual room based on a limited number of prerecorded images of the physical room in different states.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 4 is a block diagram of an example programmable multimedia controller 400 interconnected to a number of devices. The term “programmable multimedia controller” should be interpreted broadly as a device capable of controlling, switching data between, and/or otherwise interoperating with a variety of electrical and electronic devices, such as audio, video, telephony, data, security, motor-operated, relay-operated, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), energy management and/or other types of devices.

The programmable multimedia controller 400 may be coupled to a variety of A/V devices, including audio source devices 410, such as compact disk (CD) players, digital video disc (DVD) players, microphones, digital video recorders (DVRs), cable boxes, audio/video receivers, personal media players, and other devices that source audio signals; may be coupled to a variety of video source devices 420, such as digital video disc (DVD) players, digital video recorders (DVRs), cable boxes, audio/video receivers, personal media players and other devices that source video signals; may be coupled to a variety of audio output devices 430, such as speakers, devices that incorporate speakers, and other devices that output audio; and may be coupled to a variety of video output devices 440, such as televisions, monitors, and other devices that output video.

Further, the programmable multimedia controller 400 may be coupled to, control, and otherwise interoperate with a variety of other types of devices, either directly, or through one or more intermediate controllers. For example, the programmable multimedia controller 400 may be coupled to a closed-circuit television (CCTV) control system 470 that manages a system of cameras positioned about a home or other structure, HVAC control and/or energy management system 475 that manages HVAC devices to regulate environmental functions and/or energy management devices in the home or other structure, and/or a security system 480 that manages a plurality of individual security sensors in the home or other structure. In response to control commands received from the programmable multimedia controller 400, the CCTV control system 470, the HVAC control system and/or energy management system 475, and the security system 480 may manage the devices under their respective immediate control.

Further, the programmable multimedia controller 400 may be coupled to, control, and otherwise interoperate with, one or more electronic lighting controllers 490. The one or more electronic lighting controllers 490 may be coupled to, for example, via wired or wireless links, a plurality of relays 492 and/or dimmer units 493 distributed throughout the home or other structure, and wired inline with the electrical feed to individual light fixtures located therein. In response to control commands received from the programmable multimedia controller 400, the one or more electronic lighting controllers 490 may selectively trigger relays 492 and/or adjust dimmer units 493 wired inline to particular light fixtures (not shown), to create a desired level of illumination or darkness in different rooms of the home or other structure.

Similarly, the programmable multimedia controller 400 may be coupled to, control, and otherwise interoperate with, one or more motor operated device controllers 495, for example, one or more automatic window shade controllers, or other types of controllers. As with lighting control, in response to control commands received from the programmable multimedia controller 400, the motor-operated device controllers 495 may selectively trigger motor-operated devices (not shown) in various rooms of the home or other structure, to achieve desired effects.

The programmable multimedia controller 400 may receive user-input via one or more control units 450, for example, wall-mounted control units, table-top control units, hand-held portable control units, and the like, that include a display screen. The one or more control units 450 may include a touch screen interface, a mouse and pointer interface, or other type of interface. The control units 450 may be special-purpose units, dedicated to operating with the programmable multimedia controller 400, or general-purpose devices, for example, laptop computers, desktop computers, etc., configured with software to implement a user interface according to the below described techniques. In some cases, the control units 450 may be coupled to the programmable multimedia controller 400 via an intermediate device 453, such a computer, via a wired or wireless connections or networks. In other cases, the control units 450 may communicate directly to the able multimedia controller 400.

The programmable multimedia controller 400 may also receive user-input via one or more handheld button-centric remote control units and/or wall mounted button-centric control units 455, or from one or more handheld remote control units including an annular touch sensor 457. Remote control units including an annular touch sensor 457 may be adapted to manipulate, and make control selections using, an on-screen menuing system, displayed on a display device. Further details regarding remote control units including an annular touch sensor may be found in Madonna et al., U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/520,328, filed Sep. 13, 2006 and titled “Remote Control Unit for a Programmable Multimedia Controller,” the contents of which are incorporated by reference herein in their entirety.

The programmable multimedia controller 400 may also receive user-input via one or more mobile devices 460. As used herein, the term “mobile device” refers to electronic devices that are adapted to be transported on one\'s person, including multimedia smartphones, such as the iPhone® multimedia phone available from Apple Inc. and the Blackberry® device available from Research In Motion Limited, multi-purposes tablet computing devices, such as the iPad® tablet available from Apple Inc., portable media players with enhanced capabilities, such as the iPod® touch available from Apple Inc., personal digital assistants (PDAs), electronic book readers, and the like. Such mobile devices may communicate directly with the programmable multimedia controller 400, or indirectly through various wireless, cellular, and/or wired networks (not shown).

Further, the programmable multimedia controller 400 may receive user-input via a touch screen or other interface integrated into the programmable controller multimedia 400 itself, for example, a touch screen or other interface presented on a front panel 465 of the programmable multimedia controller 400.

Still further, the programmable multimedia controller 400 may receive user-input via a touch screen integrated into a video output device 440, such as a television.

In response to user-input from one of the control units 450, button-centric remote control units and/or wall mounted button-centric control units 455, remote control units including an annular touch sensor 457, mobile devices 460, the front panel 465 and/or video output devices 440, the programmable multimedia controller 400 may switch data between, issue control commands to, and/or otherwise interoperate with, the audio source devices 410, the video source devices 420, the audio output devices 430, and/or the video output devices 440. Further, in response to the user-input, the programmable multimedia controller 400 may issue control commands to, and otherwise interoperate with, the CCTV control system 470, the HVAC control and/or energy management system 475, the security system 480, the electronic lighting controllers 490, as well as the motor operated device controllers 495. The user-input which directs such functionality, at least in part, may be received within a novel virtual room-based user interface, as explained further below.



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20120284672 A1
Publish Date
11/08/2012
Document #
13551289
File Date
07/17/2012
USPTO Class
715850
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
06F3/048
Drawings
17



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